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Why the Samsung Galaxy S4’s overshadowing of the HTC One is a crying shame

Andrew Williams




We’re just a day away from the Samsung Galaxy S4’s launch in New York. Just like it did last year, Samsung’s flagship phone will wipe away almost all of the hype Sony and HTC managed to scrape together for the Sony Xperia Z and HTC One in launching that bit earlier.

We have the HTC One at Trusted towers right now, and that it’s destined to live in the shadow of the Samsung phone seems a real shame to us.

Making the Right Moves

Why? Because a lot of its priorities and design choices are clever, interesting or just downright good.

The good stuff starts as soon as you get your hands on the phone. Its back is a plate of smooth, curved anodised aluminium, offering superior ergonomics to the iPhone 5 and that phone’s same hard, cool feel.

The Samsung Galaxy S4, on the other hand, is likely to feature an uninspiring plastic body with a flimsy battery cover. For phones that have drummed-up masses of mainstream appeal, that the Samsung Galaxy S mobiles’ bodies are so drab-feeling is a bit of a jaw-dropper.

Attention to aesthetic detail in the HTC One just seems that much greater. It may not be quite a work of art, but the bevelled edges, the two-tone white and silver design and the curvature of its rear all feel immaculately contrived. In a good way.

UltraPixel – the Beginnings of a Good Idea

HTC is one of just a few mobile phone makers that is doing interesting things with the tech inside phones too. We’re talking about the UltraPixel camera of the HTC One.

The term UltraPixel is nothing more than marketing guff, of course, but what it refers to is genuinely interesting.

The HTC One has a reasonably innovative camera sensor. It’s not huge – it’s around the same size as that of the competition – but its sensor pixels are much larger than normal.

This means HTC was only able to fit four million of them in, where the Samsung Galaxy S4 is likely to have 13 million sensor pixels, but using such a sensor is an intriguing two fingers up to the dreary megapixel-matching specs war fought by other mobiles. Did you know that almost all the flagship phones of 2013 will use the same 13-megapixel Sony sensor?

And, of course, most of them will claim superiority in some way or another. It’s all terribly dreary, isn’t it?

In our opinion, UltraPixel isn’t quite there yet in execution, as the detail trade-off is just too severe. However, it sees HTC striking out in a different direction to the competition, in a manner that we can only compare to Nokia’s PureView phones.

The rumours surrounding the Samsung Galaxy S4 suggest it’ll be a box-ticking iterative successor to its predecessor the wildly successful Galaxy S3. The HTC One is anything but this.

Does Success Matter?

You might ask – what’s the problem? We already have the HTC One. It has been made, so shouldn’t we just be happy about that?

That the HTC One is bound to be such a smaller-scale phone than the Samsung Galaxy S4 means that the interesting stances made by the One are unlikely to gain traction, to sway the mobile market away from its current course. Why is it that struggling companies like HTC and Nokia seem to be the ones taking the most interesting risks these days?

When the Tables Turned

HTC was once the star of the smartphone market – so when did this all change? 2011 was the year fortunes seem to turn for HTC.

Its high-end phones lacked the direction and unified messaging of Samsung’s easy-to-comprehend mobiles. The Sensation phones and their wide array of different versions caused a confusing message that ruined the series’s impact like an asteroid breaking into fragments small enough to burn up on entry into the atmosphere. And they just weren’t that good.

The issue of confused messaging is an ongoing one too. This new phone is called the HTC One, but there have been a bunch of phones released with similar names – anyone remember the HTC One X, One S and One V? Somehow, HTC thought it was a good idea to just lop off the final letter. That won’t confuse anyone, will it? Surely not when many people know the One X as the “HTC One” anyway, right?

These face-to-palm problems aren’t doing the HTC One any favours.

We’ll be back with the full review of the HTC One soon, but unlike some of HTC’s recent phones, this feels like a worthy flagship device. But we’ll have to wait to find if it’ll side-step its issues and sell a boat-load.


March 13, 2013, 6:47 pm

"However, it sees HTC striking out in a different direction to the
competition, in a manner that we can only compare to Nokia’s PureView

No, it's the exact opposite of that - at least if we're talking about the Pureview 808, which has MUCH more than 13 megapixels.


March 13, 2013, 8:26 pm

I'm sure Samsung will sell by the bucket load, but the market were I think HTC might win, is for people who also like quality made products, this was where Apple ruled. But with iOS getting a bit boring, maybe HTC's market is not x-Samsung users but x-Apple users. And for those who bleated iSheep, maybe the same now can be said for Samsung. So I'd certainly say it's got a market, I also think what Sony have done with the Z was good idea, shame they couldn't get the IR blaster in there.

If Samsung's new phone is indeed just another piece of plastic with more powerful components, I think HTC have got a good chance. I certainly wouldn't dismiss them yet.

sohiab rehman

March 13, 2013, 11:53 pm

I own an S3 and am upgrading, if the S4 is the same plastic build I'm going to go with the HTC one, why I expect a quality product when paying £500. Don't get me wrong i love my S3, but the build always bugged me and i'm sure their wont be much in the spec in reality.

All this eye tracking ect is just a gimmick, smart stay never really worked too well and wireless charging isn't really to exciting as it still needs to sit on a Mat, so why not just plug it in!


March 14, 2013, 12:54 am

Samsung makes plastic phones, HTC make ugly and ott phones. Buy a iphone or lumia. Cheers


March 14, 2013, 12:58 am

If you think htc is underrated and overshadowed by Samsung, what about LG? In my estimation the Optimus G is a stonkingly good phone with unique software features that is as good, if not superior to the htc one in all parameters (even in design) yet it hardly gets any coverage from the media.
In the interests of fairness shouldn't you be rooting for them too if plucking deserving phones from the obscurity of Samsung's shadow was your thing?


March 14, 2013, 9:22 am

The HTC One is stylish and the majority of the population doesn't have style, they are always a minority, so this phone will never achieve mainstream success. The success of the iPhone, a style icon, I believe, is down to marketing.
People can be superficial, as well, so the low resolution camera and lack of cores may make the Samsung's look better, never mind the actual stellar performance of the HTC One
The reason why the poorer selling companies take risks is because sales are down, they *have* to innovate to get consumers' attention. Samsung also makes too many models of phones but sales are high so they will stay as they are until they are forced to re-evaluate by poor sales


March 14, 2013, 9:24 am

The HTC One is also for Android aficionados who are yearning for a quality handset. This may be the first
Also, the Xperia ZL has IR, but lacks the styling and waterproofing of the Z


March 14, 2013, 10:16 am

It was more a general point that the two are not heading down the camera "tracks" of other manufacturers. And the megapixel count of the PureView 808 was really about enabling digital zoom that's not utterly horrible. Plus, of course, the PureView 920's tactic was completely different.

Nate Ebner

March 14, 2013, 11:31 am

Sell it to us then? What are these unique software features? In what parameters is it superior to the HTC One? A quick look at the stats make them all look lower to me.
Also looks are subjective, but I am sure 90% of people would agree that the HTC One is a better looking phone.

Nate Ebner

March 14, 2013, 11:32 am

Good points. I can still make the effort to plug a cable in once a day.

Nate Ebner

March 14, 2013, 11:34 am

Yeah, if the HTC One never came out, I'd probably get the Sony Experia Z, as long as the heat and battery issues aren't as bad as the review here suggests.

Nate Ebner

March 14, 2013, 11:35 am

And that point was very clear and well made to anyone with any reading comprehension in the article.

Nate Ebner

March 14, 2013, 11:37 am

Great article. I really hope it does well, and more innovation is encouraged. Ultrapixels are a great concept, and if they can gain traction, then a 6-8MP MkII version could be really good, and change the focus to quality, instead of specs, much like AMD managed a few years back with Processor Speed.


March 14, 2013, 12:10 pm

Hi meerkat82 , yes I knew about the ZL. But from what I can gather the UK won't be getting it. It was actually between the ZL and One that I was choosing, seen as I can't get the ZL the choice was made simple for me. But after holding the HTC One & the Z, I'm glad I went for the One anyway.


March 14, 2013, 5:17 pm

"The Samsung Galaxy S4, on the other hand, is likely to feature an uninspiring plastic body with a flimsy battery cover"
Whilst I agree with all that you say about the visual and material loveliness of the HTC, I don't think it helps your point to make it at the expense of the "flimsiness" of the Galaxy battery cover. The battery cover is not structural, and greater stiffness would actually detract from its function by making it awkward to remove. And let's not forget - at least the Galaxy has a battery cover...


March 22, 2013, 8:30 am

If you care more about battery covers and aluminium bodies versus plastic bodies, you need jewelry not a phone. A phone is about the screen and what you can do with it.

Jamie Mowbray

May 1, 2013, 7:53 pm

Oh god, the Xperia Z is horrible! I had it for a few hours and hated
it, got rid of my S3 for it to later regret. The S4 is amazing yes, but
the idea of boom sound and low light ultrapixel? Good selling points, I'd be edged more towards the One but the S4 is a powerhouse with fantastic features and having an S3, I can't see myself moving away from Samsung anytime. I used to have a One X and loved it and used to swear by HTC but my One X developed problems with the Micro Sim card reader and the wifi antenna, I had them fixed but I felt let down. So I tried the S3 and loved it and didn't look back. The sales of the S4 in the UK are bonkers! Sold out everywhere I live so non in stock on and after release date because of the rush to get them. I've ordered mine and can't wait to get my hands on it! :D Who knows though, the One does look awesome. But for now, I'll stick with the Galaxy family line.

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